Source: England Rugby

Celebrating rugby volunteers

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Yesterday marked the first day of a celebration of volunteering which runs from June 1-12 and highlights the outstanding work of volunteers across the length and breadth of the UK.

In rugby, volunteers really are the heartbeat of the game, with many thousands across the country giving their time, energy and enthusiasm to grow our sport.

Bill Beaumont, Chairman of England Rugby, said “For any team to run out onto the pitch and any rugby club to open its doors, there is a team of selfless volunteers working away, giving up their evenings and weekends so that others can play. Volunteers really are one of our most valuable assets, whether they are flipping burgers, marking out pitches, arranging fixtures or coaching the youngsters. Volunteers, young and old, really are the lifeblood of our game.”

With around 40 roles up being filled up and down the country, there are a wealth of different ways for volunteers to get involved, helping to grow the game and support rugby in their community.

Despite the breadth and diversity of roles fulfilled by volunteers, whether on the field as referees, coaches or medics, or the many that make things tick behind the scenes, the one thing they all have in common is that they are passionate about our sport. Volunteers can choose to become everything from safeguarding officers, ensuring a supportive and positive environment in which children can enjoy rugby, disciplinary secretaries, upholding and enforcing the Laws of the Game, club referees, coaches and health, safety and environment officers.

Jane Waterhouse, County Safeguarding Manager for Warwickshire Rugby Football, talks about why she decided to get into volunteering within Safeguarding:

“I chose to get into Safeguarding as I am passionate about child protection, ensuring the safety and welfare of children. It is a hard and often thankless role, but it is absolutely fundamental to the game and the help, guidance and support I receive from the RFU is fantastic. My advice to someone looking to get into volunteering is, find an aspect or area of the game that you are passionate about and ‘just do it’, it can be very rewarding.”  

As well as helping to manage the game, volunteers are a great source of support to players both at a grassroots and professional level.

Senior England player, James Haskell, said “I’d like to thank the tireless work of the country’s rugby volunteers. Without your contribution, the game just wouldn’t happen. Throughout my career I have witnessed the great work of volunteers and for that I am extremely grateful for their efforts, dedication and support in growing the game.”

Young people also play a vital role in the game and the RFU has a number of programmes aimed at getting them into volunteering. One such programme is the RFU Young Ambassadors (YRAs).

The RFU encourages YRAs to get involved in a range of volunteer opportunities in their communities, both on and off the pitch including event management, fundraising, refereeing, coaching and as leaders in their school or college. Providing a flexible approach to getting involved, the programme, which relaunched in January 2016, is open to all young people involved in rugby whether they are in school, college, university or part of a community rugby club.

Being part of the Young Rugby Ambassadors programme gives volunteers the opportunity to gain recognition for their involvement in supporting rugby as well as developing their leadership and communication skills.

The RFU’s nationwide Spirit of Rugby project is also aimed at 16-24 year olds, set up to continue, and build on, the inspiring impact of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games. With 15 projects spread across 15 locations, the projects are devised and led by 16-24 year olds with the focus on creating new and innovative solutions to engaging with groups who aren’t traditionally engaged in rugby, using the inspiration of both RWC and the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games.

During Rugby World Cup 2015, 6,000 volunteers made up The Pack, working across a range of areas and locations throughout the tournament. To continue the tournament’s legacy, and reintegrate the volunteers into the wider rugby family, the RFU has created a new community ‘Pack to Family’, focused on providing The Pack with volunteering opportunities post RWC 2015.The project has already seen 190 Pack members new to rugby actively volunteer in the game since Rugby World Cup. Click  here to watch Sophie Freestone’s story of how she effectively transitioned from a member of The Pack to a volunteer at Kenilworth RFC.

In recognition of the great work of volunteers across the organisation, the RFU offers a number of incentives and benefits to recognise and reward volunteers for their efforts including a Recognition and Reward Programme, recognition gifts and internal and external awards including the Points of Light National Volunteering Awards and the Presidents Awards, the RFU’s flagship scheme with categories honouring community rugby clubs who have developed some of the finest volunteering programmes.

Click here for a list of volunteering roles available in rugby across the country.

Click here for information on the benefits of becoming a RFU volunteer.

For any general volunteering advice, please get in touch via the contact us page.

Report courtesy of England Rugby